Army gets ready for VMI

Army fell to Rutgers and then had a week off to get ready for this week's opponent, VMI. Look inside for an update on Army football from the SportsXchange.

INSIDE SLANT
   A week off, to take care of some of the bumps and bruises that come with a long football season, and to get better at the things you might not be doing well.
   Army, which is 4-3 but with three losses that all could have been wins, gets back into action this week with what should be a breather in the rigors of the schedule.
   VMI of the FCS comes to call at Michie Stadium Saturday, in what should be the next step toward Army's first bowl game since 1996.
   This is not to say the Black Knights have reached the development point where they can just show up and beat a team, regardless of its classification. But Army has to beat a team that is just 3-4 and claims a 48-7 loss to Virginia as its only game against FBS competition.
   There should be a bit of a competition letdown for Army in this game, but the players will no doubt realize what it means to them in terms of their chances to reach a bowl. The rest of the schedule? Air Force at home, at Kent State, Notre Dame at Yankee Stadium and Navy down in Philadelphia.
 
NOTES, QUOTES
   --DE Josh McNary was named to the mid-year fourth team All-America list by Phil Steele's College Football Preview and is one of 23 quarterfinalists for the Lott Trophy that goes to the Defensive Player of the Year, on and off the field.
   McNary's 2.5 sacks against Rutgers gave him 9.5 for the season. He has two or more in four of the first seven games.
   "Frankly, I think there was an opportunity to put his hand down a few more times and play a little faster," his coach, Rich Ellerson, told the Middletown Times Herald-Record when asked about the Rutgers game. "He's putting too much on his plate. Sometimes, he needs to do a little bit less, a little bit faster and he might even be more productive. Although, it's hard to imagine that he would be more productive than he already is."
   McNary's 9.5 sacks led the nation, while his 1.36 per game are second to Clemson's Da'Quan Bowers' 1.50.
   --The Black Knights were guilty of eight penalties (some on very questionable calls) for 94 yards in the Rutgers game, five infractions for 59 yards coming after halftime. Five of Rutgers' 17 first downs came on penalties. The eight penalties raised the total for the year to just 34, which is still tied for 14th in the country.
   --The Black Knights have lost three games by a total of 13 points, two of those losses coming on or close to the final play of the game.
   --Army is second in the country in turnovers margin, second only to Oregon, the No. 1 team in the nation.
   SERIES HISTORY: Army leads VMI, 13-1 (last meeting, 2009, 22-7, Army).
   SCOUTING THE OFFENSE: Clearly, Army lives and dies by its triple option, led by quarterback Trent Steelman and now featuring fullback Jared Hassin as the lead runner. This kind of offense is always a work in progress, but don't be shocked to see Steelman throw a bit against a VMI defense that's yielded 227.9 yards a game through the air.
   Army is No. 8 in the country in rushing, No. 120 (last) in passing, 75th in total offense and tied for 44th in scoring offense as it heads into this game.
   SCOUTING THE DEFENSE: The Black Knights continue to be a strong defensive team, led by defensive end Josh McNary, and the group faces a bit of a breather this week. VMI, a passing team, is gaining only 68 yards per game on the ground, but has thrown for 1,265 yards and eight scores, so this should be a sack day for McNary, Army's all-time leader in that category.
   The Knights are 25th in the country against the run, 37th against the pass, 21st in team defense and 56th in scoring defense.
   QUOTE TO NOTE: "We are going to take full responsibility for this as a team and we are going to really around each other and we are going to come back two weeks from now and beat VMI." -- FB Jared Hassin said after the loss to Rutgers and as his team was heading into the bye week.
 
STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
   THIS WEEK'S GAME: Army vs. VMI, Oct. 30 -- This is not a bad way to come out of the bye week, with the Black Knights taking a step down in the competition level. This is a nice all-military game that will get Army ready for the Air Force visit newt week.
   KEYS TO THE GAME: Army is bound to have a bit of a competition letdown coming out of the bye and has to make sure it shakes the cobwebs quickly and take care of business. This is a rare game where the guys on the other side aren't bigger, stronger and faster than the Black Knights and the Army players have to exert their will against a weaker opponent.
   PLAYERS TO WATCH:
   FB Jared Hassin -- He was the talk of spring ball but a back problem slowed his first season at West Point. That was until the last two games, where Hassin cleared the 100-yard mark in both and became the central figure in the offense.
   QB Trent Steelman -- He has been at Army for 19 games and has started all 19, winning nine as he continues to learn the ins and outs of running the option. Steelman is a true dual threat.
   DE Josh McNary -- Army's all-time sack leader should add a few to his career total of 27.5 against the FCS visitors, who like to put the ball up.
   ROSTER REPORT:
   --QB Trent Steelman and FB Jared Hassin gave Army two 100-yard rushers in the same game at Rutgers, the first time the program has had that since 1999.
   --Steelman was 8-for-14 for 115 yards passing in the game but did fumble three times. Two were lost and one was kept on replay.
   --LBs Steve Erzinger and Jarrett Mackey both recorded career highs of 1.5 sacks in the loss, Erzinger named honorable mention national linebacker of the week by the College Football Performance Awards for that performance.
   --LB Zach Watts blocked a punt and LB Sean Westphal recovered it in the Rutgers game.
   --FS Donovan Travis recorded a career-high 12 tackles.
   --K Alex Carlton kicked a 26-yard field goal in overtime, his second make of the game. That moved him into a tie for seventh place on Army's all-time field goal list, with 24.
   --S Jordan Trimble returned against Rutgers after missing the Tulane game with a hamstring injury.
   --SB Pat Mealy returned to the starting lineup against Rutgers, but Hassin is clearly the focus of the running game.

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